Skip to content

Scientist Facilitating Open Internet Access in China Attacked in the United States

Peter Yuan Li, a United States citizen and key figure in the Falun Gong efforts to bring uncensored information to China through the Internet, was attacked and beaten in his home in the U.S. The attack took place just days before the U.S. Congressional hearing on the Chinese communist regime’s Internet censorship, held on February 15, 2006.

On the morning of February 8, according to Dr. Li, four Asian men stormed into his house in Duluth, Georgia. The intruders bound, gagged, and brutally attacked him. They ransacked the house, taking two laptop computers, his wallet, home telephone, and files from a locked cabinet that they pried open. No valuables, such as jewelry and other costly electronics, were touched. Dr. Li needed 15 stitches to close the wounds on his face.

Dr. Li holds a Ph.D. in computer science from Princeton University. He is a Falun Gong practitioner and Chief Technology Officer of The Epoch Times, a newspaper that published a highly critical series of essays titled the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party. The Nine Commentaries has been banned in China, yet reportedly has been widely distributed within China through underground channels. The mere possession of the booklet has led to several years of imprisonment for more than a few people in China. The Nine Commentaries and its public campaigns have urged Communist Party members to renounce their Party affiliations on a specially designed website maintained by The Epoch Times. As of mid-February, over eight million Communist Party and Youth League members have renounced their allegiances on the website as a result of the Nine Commentaries campaign.

Dr. Li maintains both The Epoch Times website and the related Nine Commentaries and Communist Party renunciation websites. He ensures that, through proxy technologies, hundreds of thousands of mainland Chinese are able to access the site and post their resignations. The Epoch Times website receives over one million hits from China per day.

Internet access to websites outside of China has become a tit-for-tat battlefield. As Dr. Li and his fellow Falun Gong colleagues work tirelessly to ensure that those in China can access The Epoch Times websites, the Chinese communist regime has been trying to counter these efforts with the technologies and services of Western firms that provide the nuts and bolts of China’s Internet. Cisco Systems, Google, Microsoft, Nortel Networks, Sun Microsystems, and Yahoo! are all reported to have assisted the Chinese regime in arresting or otherwise persecuting those who speak up against the Chinese Communist Party or seek access to certain websites in the West. At the February 15th Congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., on the regime’s Internet censorship, these companies testified that compliance with Chinese authorities’ requests is required to stay in business in China. {mospagebreak}

The first man who knocked on Dr. Li’s door said he was a water deliveryman. Once Dr. Li opened the door, another man immediately appeared and helped his cohort push their way into Dr. Li’s home in the Atlanta suburb. The two were armed with a knife and a gun and spoke Korean, according to Dr. Li. As he called out for help, the two men knocked him to the floor, kicked him, and hit him on the head with the butt of the gun. After they had taped his eyes and bound him, he said he heard another one or two men enter his house. One of them spoke to him in Mandarin Chinese and demanded to know where he kept his documents. The men ransacked the house and forced open locked file cabinets. After the men left, Dr. Li was able to escape into the street, where a neighbor saw him and called the police. Fifteen stitches were needed to close the gashes on his face.

There have been many reported incidents of Falun Gong practitioners getting harassed or threatened while on U.S. soil. The New York City apartment of Falun Gong spokeswoman Gail Rachlin has reportedly been burgled five times since 1999. In April 2002, Falun Gong practitioners filed a lawsuit in Washington, D.C., against the Chinese communist government to protest these activities. Last year, for example, the San Francisco home of Mr. Youzhi Ma, an editor for The Epoch Times who finances and manages reporters inside China, was repeatedly broken into. His laptop computers were also stolen.

In October 2004, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H. Con. Resolution 304, which recognizes that "the Chinese government has attempted to silence the Falun Gong movement and Chinese pro-democracy groups inside the United States." The resolution urges the U.S. Attorney General to "investigate reports that Chinese consular officials in the U.S. have committed illegal acts while attempting to intimidate or inappropriately influence Falun Gong practitioners or local elected officials."

Peter Yuan Li’s case is still under investigation. The police have not unearthed any evidence that ties the break-in at Dr. Li’s home to the Chinese communist government, nor has the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., issued a comment on the incident.

Xinhua Special Topic: On the U.S. Defense Review

U.S. Defense Review Promotes “China Military Threat Theory”

[Editor’s note: The two articles below are excerpts translated from the Chinese communist regime’s official news agency, Xinhua. They are posted on its website Xinhuanet under the special topic "U.S. Defense Review Promotes ‘China Military Threat’ Theory."]

Rear Admiral Yang Yi Interprets American Defense Review: Taking China as a Hypothetical Rival Object

Xinhuanet, February 9, 2006

At the beginning of this month, the United States released the "Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR)." The QDR contains extensive coverage of "China’s military expansion." It declared that China will develop the high-tech, non-asymmetrical military capability, including strategic nuclear weapons, tactical unmanned aerial vehicles, and so on. In an exclusive interview, Rear Admiral Yang Yi, Deputy Director of the Strategic Research Department and Director of the Strategic Research Institute, National Defense University, provided detailed interpretations of the report.

The Change in Quantity Draws America’s Suspicion

Reporter: Compared to previous reports, what are the features of America’s 2006 QDR as important indicators for American defense development?

Yang Yi: Compared to the QDR of 2001 or even earlier reports, the prominent characteristic of this year’s report is that the United States explicitly shows worry about China issues. The content of the "China threat theory" was also mentioned in the 2001 QDR, but in a relatively vague way. For instance, when it talked about the issue of "the precise attack of the theater," it actually referred to China.

The main reason is that, after the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, the United States needs assistance from China in counter-terrorism affairs. Thus, it did not go public with the "China threat theory." However, China went through rapid development over the last four years. China’s developing model has been recognized by the international society, and its international position has been upgraded. Under the guidance of the scientific development concept, China has implemented a new military reform. On the other hand, after the Iraq War, the United States has been lacking the ability to do what it would like. This change in the balance of power draws the argument within the United States about "who overlooked China."

The United States wanted to maintain its absolute superiority from the ideology of pragmatism. Military strength is the important tool for maintaining its "absolute power." Therefore, under these conditions, the United States openly brought out the "China threat theory."{mospagebreak}

U.S. "Fever" in Taking China as a Hypothetical Target

Reporter: What is the purpose for the United States to openly bring up the "China threat theory?"

Yang Yi: America’s military strategic adjustment and development needs a target. During the Cold War, it focused on competing with the former Soviet Union for dominance. After that age, it targeted some regional big countries and in the post-9/11 period, it turned to the anti-terrorism. Now its strategic adjustment could be described as "one eye on counter-terrorism with the other on the challenge."

In the domain of strategy, "it is difficult to formulate a high-level policy without an enemy." As a result of the fast growth of its national power, China became America’s "hypothetical challenger."

Reporter: In the report, the United States includes Russia and India in the "Strategic Crossroad" countries.

Yang Yi: Yes. But we should notice that the United States gave India more positive comments than negative ones. Russia was "degraded" as a regional big country. The overall power of Russia will not have much increase in a short period. Therefore, taking China as a rival is easier to stir up America’s "fervor."

Don’t Make a Fuss Over It

Reporter: At this time, the United States is very concerned about the development of China’s navy.

Yang Yi:When we communicated with American military personnel, we found what they were concerned most about was the "uncertainty" of China’s military development. They thought that the "strategic border" between China and the United States should be on the sea. If China’s goal of development is to be a regional big country, it should not develop ocean naval forces. Therefore, the United States is always worried that China’s naval development is targeting the United States. It pays particular attention to this aspect.


What’s Changed and Unchanged in the U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review

Xinhuanet, February 6, 2006, Source: People’s Daily Overseas Edition{mospagebreak}

On February 6, 2006, the U.S. Defense Department submitted to the U.S. Congress the new "Quadrennial Defense Review." Generally speaking, this report stays within the framework of the new national security strategy of the United States after the "9/11" incident. However, compared to the previous report four years ago, the new one adjusts the focal points for future defense. From the unchanged framework and the small adjustments, we can better understand the direction of America’s China policy.

In the new report, there are mainly two things unchanged. The first one is that the United States is still engaged in a long-lasting counter-terrorism war; that is to say, America’s No. 1 enemy is still terrorism. The second one is that the United States still sees China as a potential "military competitor." As early as four years ago, American strategy expert Cohen explicitly stated that those who formulated the national defense strategy had no doubt about two things: one, the United States would face longer and tougher threats from terrorists; and two, the rising China would become the rival of this region.

What are other changes in the new report that we should be concerned about? First, the new report for the first time uses the word "China." The previous report four years ago stated that in the East Asia region the United States would face the challenge of "a military competitor with a formidable resource base." But the new one explicitly mentions that, "as a major and newly emerging big power, China has the most potentials to engage in a military competition with the United States." Second, the new report proposes specific measures to strengthen the U.S. military’s operational capability in the Pacific region. At the same time, it also set the goal of increasing the long-range offensive capability as soon as possible.

These two changes show that the United States will increase the tracking and research of Chinese military development and will take this as the key goal for the future defense strategy. It is particularly worth mentioning that the United States will enhance its long-range offensive capability out of the consideration of the potential change in the political situation in the East Asia region. Once the United States encounters problems for its military bases in Japan, Korea, and so on to control East Asia, the only way is to increase its long-range offensive capability. Otherwise, it cannot effectively control this region. In the meantime, the increase of its long-range offensive capability would also enhance the deterrence impact of the United States against terrorists and so-called "rascal countries."

With respect to strategic focal points, the new report is different from President Bush’s State of the Union that emphasized more on China’s competition with the United State in the economic arena. But the report is closely connected with Bush’s speech. The latter emphasizes politics and diplomacy while the former concerns military preparation, which naturally would consider the China policy from the military preparation and prevention. From the U.S. strategy of "putting stakes on both sides," the United States is putting the "stake" of defense on the unpredictable side.

Translated by CHINASCOPE from

Chinese Citizens Comment on New Regulations to Ban Pornography

The Chinese communist government has recently published new regulations for recreational businesses. The new regulations bar all gambling, pornography, and other illegal activities in Karaoke bars, massage parlors, and other recreational venues. The regulations also prohibit government officials and their relatives from running recreational businesses. How do ordinary people regard the regulations? Will the regulations work? Below are reactions from VOA’s (Voice of America) audiences toward the new regulations.

Regulations Are Only a Superficial Formality

Mr. Wu from Liaoning Province said that the government published such regulations merely as a formality. People are very clear about this. Mr Wu said, "Service businesses with pornography are all run by people having connections with power. These people either have money or connections with government officials. If police make an arrest, someone will manage to get the person released immediately. Some people are so special that no one dares to arrest them—they are above the law. Do you know how much money they give to officials every year? No one dares to touch them. The laws are only a show for the outside world. Everyone knows that the laws cannot be enforced. We should learn from the West and restrict the (pornographic) services to designated areas. This practice is good for social stability."

Legalized Pornography Good for Social Stability?

Mr. Zhao from Hebei Province believes that the Chinese government should legalize prostitution, as it will be good for social stability. He said, "I suggest that prostitution be legalized. China’s family plan has caused a huge imbalance in the gender ratio. Many men will never find a wife; if their demands for sexual relations cannot be met, it will cause social disorder."

For Every Government Policy, People Have a Counterstrategy

Mr. Shi from Shanghai used to work as a security officer in an entertainment house. He said the regulations in the entertainment business have always been strict. But for every government policy, there is a local strategy to bypass it—all the rules are useless. He said: "I have lots of work experience. I worked in a dance club and later in an Internet café. I think the government policies all look ok. But again, for every policy there is a strategy. Take the Internet café as an example. The rule says no students allowed; another rule says business must close at 3 a.m., 24-hour service is not allowed. But the place where I worked, every day it was open for 24 hours. Karaoke, dance clubs are even more so. All owners are very liberal; no one really follows the rules. They must have inside connections to the government."

Many Entertainment Businesses Have Government Connections{mospagebreak}

Mr. Du from Zhejiang said that many entertainment businesses have connections with the government. Therefore, they are hard to control; in fact no one can really control them. He said: "The Chinese government issued the regulations to control the businesses. In reality, they don’t really know how to control, nor canthey control. Why? It is because all the entertainment businesses and underground gambling shops are run by people with (government) connections. Why can’t they control—because the police are collecting protection fees from the businesses. Of course, they don’t call them ‘protection fees,’ they called them ‘security fees.’ If the government cracks down, everyone will close their businesses; then the police’s supplemental income will be gone."

Mr. Du believes that the sex industry will eventually be legalized. He said: "Years ago, laws and regulations against pornography and organized crime were all published. From Deng Xiaoping to Jiang Zemin, until now, every year, the government launched some campaigns to eliminate them. But China’s reality is that people look down on poor people, not prostitutes. Sex shops, beauty saloons, gambling houses are all over the place. In the past, people still had objections and didn’t like them. Now few make a big deal out of it. So it’s better to legalize them."

According to Mr. Zhang from Shanghai, "I believe that the measure (new regulations for the entertainment business) is claiming that (the sex industry) will continue. It’s like the fight against counterfeiting: The more you fight, the more counterfeits are made. I once read in a magazine that, sometime ago in Beijing, the government closed all the sex shops one night. If they really wanted to control it, they could do it immediately. But right now they don’t really want to control."

Translated by CHINASCOPE from

2005 State Council Report on Violent Conflict Between Chinese Citizens and the Police

The number of unauthorized mass protests and gatherings in China in 2005 reached almost 100,000, involving over eight million people, according to Trend magazine, a monthly Chinese periodical. Over 3,000 of them involved incidents of violent conflict between the police and Chinese residents. Almost 10,000 were injured.

On January 25, 2006, China’s State Council released the Summary Report of Mass Protests and Gatherings in Rural and Urban Areas in 2005, originally compiled by the Central Committee for Comprehensive Management of Public Security. Below are details from the report:

The number of unauthorized mass protests and gatherings across the country totaled 96,408, with 8,208,600 people involved.

Continue reading

Truth Will Prevail

The 17th anniversary of the 1989 Pro-Democracy Demonstration and the June 4th Tiananmen Massacre in China is drawing near and for 17 years, I have been looking forward to the day of truth in China. Today, those of us who lived through the dreams and tears as protesters striving for a free China, and those who survived the massacre, prison, and exile are still fighting to have China acknowledge what really happened during that tragic time.

It was a life-defining moment for myself and for the people of my generation. It was my first realization that Chinese all over the world, whether they are from Beijing or Shanghai, Hong Kong, or Taipei, all share the dream for a free and democratic China and it was the first time for the world to learn of this dream. It was this dream that scared the communist regime to such a depth that it would use extreme violence to maintain power with utter contempt toward human life. The Chinese communist regime attacked its own capital with brute force, senselessly killing an uncounted number of peaceful demonstrators. Tens of thousands were subsequently put into prison for expressing their own opinion in the following persecution and for 17 years, anyone who dared to talk about the June 4th Massacre in public or on the Internet, faces years in prison. Why is such a powerful regime so afraid of what happened 17 years ago? Only because such a regime lives in the shadow of bloody murder and lies.

I was fortunate to be a part of this Demonstration. Throughout the whole event, I was inspired by the peacefulness and discipline of the protesters, in spite of the strong oppression from the communist government. On the morning of April 22, tens of thousands of students waited on Tiananmen Square for the memorial service of Hu Yaobang, the former leader who had a reputation for political openness. In front of the Big Hall, the students proposed seven requests calling for more political and economic freedom. We asked for a direct dialogue on issues such as corruption and press freedom. That was the time when I first realized that all of us on Tiananmen Square want a better China with freedom and democracy, and believed that our collective voice would be heard. Within the Big Hall, all the ranking leaders of the communist regime were present. Yet, besides a failed attempt from the police to charge the crowds, there was no answer to the protesters who had been on Tiananmen Square since the previous evening. The protesters decided to go back to school and continue protesting. So overwhelming was our common belief that tens of thousands of students, without a formal organization, acting as if we were one person, could overcome the threat of oppression. It was such a powerful surprise to the ruling old men—including the mastermind of the Tiananmen Massacre, Deng Xiaoping, who was seen visibly shaken on TV inside the Big Hall while attending Hu’s memorial service. This contrast remained throughout the whole protest until the bloody massacre: new against old, peace against violence, hope against desperation, love for freedom against fear of losing power.
On May 17, the day of the "Million People Demonstration" in Beijing, the majority of Beijing residents became involved in the student-led protest. I was a member of the Beijing Alliance of Independent Student Unions, the leading body of the protest. We built an efficient broadcasting station covering the whole Tiananmen Square. People from all walks of society came to show their support. Journalists from the official media carried the slogan, "No more lies, we want to tell the truth." Government officials came to our station to urge the ruling old men to talk to the students. Judges chanted, "Rule by law, end corruption." Even monks came to plea for the regime to show their humanity. Later, famous rock star Cui Jian wanted to sing with the students. Protesters poured from all corners of Beijing into Tiananmen Square. At the same time, over 1,000 students were on a hunger strike, and we set up traffic control maintained by volunteers. Almost every minute there was an ambulance going through this huge crowd, carrying the students (including myself at one time) to emergency care. It was a miraculous feat that all of the hunger strikers were taken care of by volunteers during these activities. The state media reported that even the crime rate in Beijing dropped to a record low. This fact was a testimony to the peacefulness and devotion of the protesters. A postal worker delivered hundreds of telegraphs of sympathy from all over the country to us many times during the day. One day he asked me, "You have been here on Tiananmen Square for days. Do you have a word for your family?" So I wrote, "I am on Tiananmen Square, together with a million common Chinese like me, I have no fear of the tyranny."

My family was worried, so were all the families with college kids in Beijing. As early as April 25, without any due process, Deng Xiaoping declared that he would crush the protesters with armed troops. By May 20, 1989, the day Li Peng declared martial law in Beijing, 14 army groups encircled Beijing. The total number of troops deployed to attack the civilians of Beijing was more than that of all the U.S. army in Operation Desert Storm. In the morning of the 4th of June, I was among the last group of students who were driven out of Tiananmen Square by tanks and guns. I saw guns firing and heard gunshots all night long. Beijing was on fire and smothered in smoke. Fuxing Hospital near Muxidi, was filled with civilians who were killed or wounded. I saw another 40 or so bodies left in the garage area. One of them was Zhong Qing, a student at Tsinghua, the same university that I was from. The exact number of deaths could never be confirmed. I was put on the "most wanted" list and arrested on June 13, 1989.

Today the victims of the Tiananmen Massacre still face persecution by the communist regime. During all these years, Professor Ding Zilin and the Tiananmen Mothers have been calling for an investigation of the Massacre. At the same time, the regime still uses all its force to purge people’s memory of 1989 and instead, the Chinese have been forced to accept only the official statement. Fang Zheng, who lost both legs to the tanks near Tiananmen Square, was not allowed to participate in the Special Olympics.{mospagebreak}

Outside of China, we will carry on this fight for truth and justice. Each year, people around the world gather in memorial. Feng Congde, one of my fellow student leaders, set up the website, to collect photos, tapes, and articles about the Demonstration. In the year 2000, I was one of the plaintiffs who sued Li Peng in the United States for his actions against humanity during 1989. The other plaintiffs are Zhang Liming, whose sister was killed in the Tiananmen Massacre, Liu Gang, Wang Dan, and Xiong Yan, former student leaders on Tiananmen Square. I hope that one day we can do the same in China. It is a long journey, but truth and justice will always overcome lies and violence.

Zhou Fengsuo, the fifth most wanted student after the June 4th Tiananmen Massacre, was imprisoned but never tried or sentenced. At the time, Zhou was physics major at Tsinghua University and a member of the Standing Committee of the Beijing Students Autonomous Union. He was finally released after a year in prison. Today, Zhou resides in California.

The Forgotten Teachers Of Rural China

In rural China, substitute teachers are a neglected class of teachers who struggle below the poverty line. Substitute teachers are those in rural schools who are not included among the regular faculty and teach only on a temporary basis. They used to be called "local teachers." Those who had taught on a temporary basis before 1984 were either moved up to regular teachers or simply dismissed.

Starting in 1985, in an effort to improve the quality of teaching in elementary schools, the Ministry of Education banned the use of temporary "local teachers" across the country. However, regular teachers do not want to teach at schools in poor, rural areas, so these schools have to hire temporary teachers to fill the vacancies. They are now called substitute teachers.

As reported in Southern Weekend in April 2005, Dong Jianping, Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Committee in Weiyuan County, forwarded a report addressing the issue of substitute teachers’ income to his deputy Li Yingxin and asked Li to conduct a thorough survey. Li then launched a week-long investigation.

Three months later, Li sent his report entitled A Survey of Substitute Teachers in Weiyuan County to the CCP Committee and to the Department of Education of Gansu Province. However, he never received a reply from either one.

On July 28, 2005, Gansu Daily published Li’s survey. In Gansu Province’s Weiyuan County alone, there were close to 600 substitute teachers. Their monthly salaries ranged from 40 to 80 yuan (US$5 to US$10). Seventy percent of them made only 40 yuan per month. According to Li’s survey, some of them had not had a raise in 20 years.

For the Sake of the Kids

One in every seven to eight teachers in Zhangjiabao Elementary School, in Beizhai Town, is a substitute teacher, and some of them are the key resources for the Beizhai District. The first person Li interviewed at the school was Wang Zhengming.

The 62-year-old Wang is the oldest substitute. With his wrinkled face and hunched back, he looks like an old farmer. He was the first teacher in Zhangjiabao Village when he started teaching in 1958.

Wang proudly tells Li, "The generation of grandchildren in the village are my students; their parents are my students; even their grandparents are my students."{mospagebreak}

Li asks in surprise, "According to state policy, you should have been promoted to regular teacher because you started to work before 1984."

"I missed the opportunity," Wang replies with a humble smile.

When Wang started teaching, there were wolf packs in the vicinity of the school. He would teach during the day, watch the school at night, and do farm work when he had spare time. Regular teachers came and left. Wang was the only one who had taught at the school for more than 20 consecutive years until 1984, when he was let go after the school received several regular teachers.

In 1985, he was called back when there was a shortage of regular teachers. However, his previous years of service did not count. That’s why he was not moved up to a regular teacher later on. Wang has since taught at the school for another 20 years and has made 40 yuan a month during all these years.

The low pay became particularly hard for Wang’s family during the 1980s and 1990s, when his two sons went to college. The family still has to rely on whatever they can make from farming the family land. His wife has to do all the farm work by herself.

"Since I have to teach, my poor wife has to do all the man’s jobs. My daughter had to quit school to help out," Wang says with tears in his eyes.

"What’s your purpose for doing this all these years?" Li asks.

"Nothing. Not for money. Simply for the sake of the kids. I had to quit school when I was young, so my lifelong dream is to make sure that kids can go to school," Wang replies matter-of-factly.

300 Yuan (US$37) a Month Is a Dream

For those middle-aged substitute teachers who have kids in high school or college, their meager incomes have put them in serious hardship. "No matter which village you visit, as long as there is a subsititute teacher, he is for sure the poorest in the village," Li wrote in his survey.

Li Jianxin, who is almost 40, is a substitute teacher at Fuhe Hope Elementary School, in Luojiamo Village, Huichuan Town, Weiyuan County. Nearly half of the teachers in the school are substitutes. Li became a local teacher in September 1984, but for some reason he was not moved up to regular teacher. In Weiyuan County, although the regular teachers who have 20 years of service are making 1,200 yuan (US$150) or above per month, Li had been paid only 40 yuan a month until two years ago when he received an associate degree. Then his salary doubled.{mospagebreak}

Li Jianxin has received the Outstanding Teacher Award from the town and county multiple times. He still has last year’s county certificate for Outstanding Class Teacher hanging on his wall. Every year, he attends the teacher appreciation dinner given by his students who have been accepted by colleges. Although he’s short on money, he always manages to give each of these student five yuan (US$0.6) as a token.

"This year, Zhu Yanxia in our village has been accepted by a university. When I toasted her [at the dinner], she made a deep bow to me. I was very moved when I saw tears running down her cheeks. I feel that all my sufferings have paid off."

Yet, Li’s sense of accomplishment offers little relief to his hardship. Both his son and daughter attend middle school, and their tuition adds up to 3,000 yuan (US$370) per year. With his monthly income of 80 yuan, even if he does not spend a penny, he can save only at most 960 yuan (US$120) a year. He has to rely on the income from his farmland to just barely cover the tuition costs. "I have not bought any new clothes for either of my kids for more than 10 years," Li says with teary eyes.

When the reporter from Southern Weekend asked Li how much he would like for a monthly salary, he said he would like 300 to 400 yuan (US$40-$50), which is close to the figures given by most of the substitute teachers Li Yingxin surveyed.

Young Substitute Teachers Are Leaving

Liu Furong told the reporter from Southern Weekend that the only reason he could afford to get married and start a family was because of his parents’ savings. Many young substitute teachers cannot afford to get married.

This has to do with the betrothal customs in rural areas in northwestern China. Some young substitute teachers cannot afford a betrothal, which ranges from 10,000 to 20,000 yuan (US$1,250 to $2,500). With their annual salary of 400 to 500 yuan (US$50 to $62), even if they stop eating and drinking for 20 years, they can hardly save 10,000 yuan. They simply have to remain single.

Wang Weihong, 39 years old, is a substitute teacher in Beizhai Town. He’s also a key teacher in the Beizhai school district. He sadly tells Li Yingxin that while others’ lives are getting better and better, his is going from bad to worse. He is thinking of leaving after the semester either to pick cotton in Xinjiang or teach in a private school.{mospagebreak}

Yu Jianbang, the superintendent of the Beizhai school district, is deeply troubled with this situation. There are 101 regular teachers and 54 substitute teachers in Beizhai. Three schools in the remote villages are each assigned a teacher, but no regular teacher is willing to go there. Consequently, the work falls on the shoulders of the substitute teachers. Yu says that substitute teachers are sharing at least half of the teaching load in the district. If they leave, the district will fall apart.

At present, there are 32,000 subsitute teachers in the rural areas of Gansu Province. They represent 28.2 percent of all elementary school teachers. According to Wang Jiayi, Vice President and Professor of Education at Northwest Normal University, there are in total 506,000 substitute teachers in 12 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions in western China, which accounts for 20 percent of the total number of teachers in western rural China. He thinks that the condition of the substitute teachers in Weiyuan County is very typical in western China.

Helen Chou is a freelance writer based in New York.